As I look back on the year I realize I had experiences that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I know that each year comes as a full package. We can’t pick and choose. Even the idea of picking and choosing is in itself ludicrous.
My List of Thanks
- Travel to Cuba
- Healthy granddaughter born
- Improved health
- A flourishing garden
- Opportunities to help
It’s not the list of accomplishments or events that makes me thankful. The accomplishments are fine, but I’m thankful for the nuances of daily living. It’s in the context of daily living that I find myself repeatedly thankful.
Joy in the Nuances
That doesn’t mean I didn’t experience disappointments. It took a couple months before I could do a careful visit to see our granddaughter born at Easter. But we did get to see her. A few months later we witnessed her unusual baptism. A no contact baptism in a time of COVID. No less awesome and grateful to welcome a new member into our family.
My mother was hospitalized just before COVID started. I didn’t get to see her in person till 8 months later when the Long Term Care home she had moved into allowed additional visitors. Phone calls and video calls, well not the same, at least assured me she was being well looked after. Thankful that she was in a not-for-profit home that experienced two minor outbreaks but no hospitalizations or deaths.
How the Year Began to Unfold
At the end of January I was able to make a brief trip to Cuba. The highlight of this trip was experiencing what I called Five Star Hospitality. Once it is safe to travel again I hope to visit this family living in the mountains along the south coast.
There is something humbling when looking back on a year that many have described as ‘unprecedented’. While for many, and I empathize with them, much of that reflects experiences of a world turned upside down. Who could have imagined something happening that would bump the Australian wildfires off the January news cycle?
I am thankful to have found myself in a situation that allowed for flexibility. I had opportunities to plan and make personal and family decisions related to the changes happening all over the world. Many others have found themselves in confining and scary situations in dealing with the pandemic short of hopeful options.
Shortly after our return from Cuba it became apparent that travel abroad and even travel within the province was going to be very limiting. So with expecting to be home bound for the summer or even into the fall, we made plans. That was the start of the flexibility that we realized we had.
Being retired just looked a whole lot better. No jobs that put us into risks of exposure. No worries about job income or going through all the red tape of applying for CERB. For me life continued mostly changed for the better. Groceries got delivered to our front door. Other essentials arrived by mail or courier. Life seemed to become so much simpler. I didn’t even bother taking he snow tires off the car because it was hardly getting used.
I was thankful for a much simpler life. Since my ABI (acquired brain injury) social settings have been a challenge. Even deciding whether to attend a social event orr deciding when to bow out of a social event had become a non-issue.
I welcomed social distancing. I spent much less time recovering from social events. Social contact was now mostly limited to one or two people at a time. That is much easier than navigating a room full of people or conversation with a group of seven or eight people.
Gardening: Experiencing God’s Miracle
Knowing we would be spending much time at home, our general plans began to be tailored to fit this new and simpler reality. We decided to add a half acre to our garden. One might call it a bit more than a garden, but not really a farm. Somewhere in between.
A half acre would produce more vegetables than we needed to put up for the winter. We decided that all the surplus vegetables could be donated to the food bank. We didn’t realize how desperate some food banks would be by summer. We happily shipped three quarters of our produce to the Yonge Street Mission food bank. As a Christian organization they were given no COVID assistance from the federal government. (Unlike most food banks.)
Having a food bank to take the surplus vegetables is so heartwarming. In addition to knowing I’m helping feed people in need, it his heartening to know that none of the surplus vegetable were going to waste. I did my last delivery of fresh vegetables, yes fresh vegetables on December 15. Fresh vegetables picked the day before with my fingers risking frost bite. Vegetables don’t survive the frost unless you put a dutch angle on gardening. Kale, (Westlandse boerenkool) improves in flavour when it has gone through a few frost cycles. Black Magic and Red Russian kale also improves with frost.
I was reminded on one of my deliveries to the food bank how much my vegetables were appreciated. On one of my deliveries the food procurement manager commented on how fresh the vegetables looked. He was so pleased when he heard the greens had been picked just 3 or 4 hours earlier. By the end of the season I had delivered about 1900 lbs (860 kg) of fresh, edible vegetables. He was used to throwing over half of the donated vegetables into a dumpster. So much of what would be donated was beyond edible.
We set up a four foot by eight foot vegetable stand at the end of our driveway for Farm Gate sales. It didn’t take long for word to spread. The prices were rock bottom. By that point in the summer many people who were earning much less welcomed the affordable fresh vegetables. I also figured if vegetables are left too long on the stand they would wilt and have to be thrown out. So better to sell cheap and not throw stuff away.
So thankful for the freedom to roam the half acre while the province went into the first full scale lock down. No need to physically distance since not many people are too keen on hoeing and weeding. No need to wear a mask or use hand sanitizer. Several hours a day distanced from the stresses and worries of society while knowing I was doing my part to help in some small way.
It’s the growing that is simply awe inspiring. It was the first time I had been gardening on this larger scale. I had decided to propagate a wide variety of beans so I could grow a proper crop of new varieties the next year; Soybeans, Red Mexican, Orca, Tongues of Fire, Cranberry, Vermont Cranberry, Thousand to One, and Bruine Bonen (Dutch Brown Beans).
It is truly amazing to put seed in the ground and just have things growing. It’s like it magically happens. Much of the seed, tomato, radish, squash, and peas I had collected from the previous year. Growing vegetables creates a comforting sense of self sufficiency not to mention an avenue towards increased food security. Oh the wonders of propagating and growing.
As I was working in the garden preparing the soil, weeding or hoeing, or harvesting, I often thought about my grandfather. My grandfather was a market gardener who worked his four acre plot of land his whole life with his brother. As the summer progressed I was imagining glimpses of my name sake who raised 11 children on a small plot of land.
The most dramatic change I experienced this year is changes in my ABI recovery. A couple years ago I got a hint of what kind of intervention therapy I needed to look for. A year and a half ago I read an article that confirmed I wasn’t looking in vain. The challenge was finding a therapist who was qualified and capable of guiding me through the protocols and monitor my progress.
I ending up working with a former colleague. For both of us having known each other for a couple decade helped in deciding to venture into unfamiliar territory. I never imagined that the Listening Therapy would affect such a dramatic and sudden change on my daily functioning.
To think that two sessions of one hour could turn a big part of my life right side up again. That in a year of so many things being turned upside down. The dramatic improvement within the first two sessions motivated me to follow through on the program. I was able to do over 100 self administered daily half hour or one hour sessions through the summer and into the fall. The follow up was to reinforce the improvements made in the first two hours as well as bring less dramatic, but gradual improvements to other areas of my daily functioning.
You can find the details of this journey in a 6 part series of blog postings which I named Tiniest Muscle with Real Pull. I started the Listening Therapy at the end of April. There was hardly a day that went by that I would pause and simply marvel at the change.
They say you don’t realize how much you value something till you lose it. Well, there’s a bit more to that in my experience. You realize even more how much you value something when you get it back.
In the five years since my ABI I had adopted a large number of accommodations. Making accommodations had become a given part of much of my life. The dramatic change was mostly related to getting my short term memory back. That’s when I realized how much short term memory has to do with almost every minute of the day. Maybe even napping and night time sleep. Doesn’t dreaming require memory? I reflected on the memory recovery in my post What’s the Deal with Short Term Memory.
Being able to itemize all the changes I experienced when I recovered my short term memory was simply awesome. There’s no words to describe the experience.
Seniors In My Life
This fall I have intentionally been in regular touch with seniors. I know, I’m retired so that makes me a senior. Yes I get the senior discounts and other perks. But I’m talking about ‘old’ seniors. My mother in law before she passed the 80 year mark had a word for ‘old’ seniors which I can’t repeat here.
My time with seniors this fall has been eye opening. I had committed to being available to them and see how they were faring as the pandemic continued to make changes in their lives.
I expected to hear of different challenges as I checked in on them. Not a word about challenges. What I did hear was how they were reaching out to others. I hear how they were adjusting quite well and able to cope with the changes. With the recent lock down which aborted their Christmas plans each one was unshaken. They reminded me that they were prepared to take the measures believing they they would get through it.
As I reflected on their responses I couldn’t help but be thankful for the outlook they were sharing. With their outlook they were able to reassure others. This is the generation that lived through World War 2. They had experienced and lived through, hunger, danger, loss of family members, uncertainty and more. But they had persevered and they know they will get through this.
And so, I wouldn’t trade this year for the world. If it meant that this was the only opportunity for these experiences, I would forever have been deprived of a year that has given me some amazing blessings to savour. This is both blessings that I’ve have received and ways in which I could be a blessing to others.
They say, “Hindsight is 2020 vision.” That’s my 2020 vision of the year.
It’s now 2021. The year is still very young. We don’t know what this year holds. There have been so many lessons learned this past year. We have an amazing past to build on. All I want to say, Blessings to each one of you in the New Year.